Watch Out for These Medicare Enrollment Period Scams
Scammers are always looking for new opportunities to fool you, and Medicare’s annual enrollment period is no exception.
The Medicare annual enrollment period (AEP) lasts from October 15th to December 7th every year. During this time, you can change your Medicare Part D drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan.
Scammers are ready to convince you to give up your personal information, and their tactics are more realistic than ever. Here’s what to look for.
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What Scammers Want
When scammers get their hands on your personal information, they can use to steal money from you or the Medicare program.
If they get your Medicare ID number or enough of your health plan information, they can:
- File fake claims
- Up-charge existing claims
- Get prescription drugs to sell illegally
- Sell your data to others (who could do any of the above)
And if they get your Social Security number or banking information, they can steal your money and even take out loans under your name.
It’s critical to be on the lookout for scammers! Here are a few common ways they scam people during Medicare open enrollment season.
Unsolicited Phone Calls
Any unsolicited phone call should be a warning sign that you need to keep your guard up.
Medicare sets rules about what sales agents can and can’t do and making unsolicited phone calls is a big no-no!
Unless you’re a current client, a licensed sales agent cannot call you with the goal of enrolling in you a new Part D or Medicare Advantage plan.
So, if a stranger calls you and says they have a great new Medicare plan that you need to enroll in, you can bet it’s a scam (or they are not following the marketing rules set by CMS and should be reported).
In addition, it’s likely a scam if the caller:
- Asks for any kind of payment
- Offers a gift in exchange for your personal information
- Asks for quick action or immediate payment
- Scares you by saying Medicare will discontinue your plan if you don’t re-enroll
- Says they can enroll you in a too-good-to-be-true plan, and they only need your personal information to begin
Unless your existing agent calls you, be on the lookout for signs of a scam and never give out your personal information over the phone to a stranger.
Anyone Who Asks for Sensitive Personal Information
Whether it’s a phone call, email, or website form, be very cautious about sharing sensitive information, such as your:
- Medicare ID number
- Social Security number
- Health plan information
- Bank account information
It’s OK to share your name, phone number, and email address, but hold onto your Medicare ID number and Social Security number! Do not enter it into any website chats, emails, or forms – even if you are reaching out to customer service.
If it got in the wrong hands, you could be scammed.
Threats to Cancel Your Medicare Coverage
Some scammers will pretend to be Medicare, and they’ll threaten to cancel your coverage unless you update your information.
This is always a scam, because Medicare will never call you unless you first ask them to.
And anyone who calls and says you need to verify any sensitive personal information to activate a plan is also a scammer. When you get a call like this, hang up!
Unsolicited Text Messages
Many scammers are starting to make their way into your text messages. These SMS (text message) phishing attempts are now called “smishing.”
Just like licensed sales agents cannot make unsolicited phone calls, they also cannot send unsolicited texts.
If you don’t recognize who the text is from, it’s safe to ignore it. Do not reply if you’re unsure – a reply could alert the scammer that you’re active, and they will try harder to scam you.
Be extra cautious of texts from an unknown number that contain a link. Clicking the link could leave you vulnerable to fraud.
Here’s an example of what a “smishing” attempt could look like:
Any “Agent” Who Doesn’t Follow Your Scope of Appointment (SoA)
Any agent who plans to discuss Part D or Medicare Advantage plans with you – and assist with the enrollment – must first ask you to sign a Scope of Appointment (SoA) form.
This simple form outlines what the agent can talk with you about during your meeting, and it’s required by Medicare.
If an agent talks about products not mentioned in your SoA – or they never asked for one – they are either a scammer or are not following the Medicare rules.
Note: If an agent is not going to be paid a commission based on your enrollment, they do not need to ask for a Scope of Appointment. Some agents simply help their clients make an educated plan decision but choose not to get paid.
Anyone Who Imposes Deadlines Not Related to AEP
Finally, anyone who imposes an enrollment deadline on you that's not October 15-December 7 is a scammer.
For example, they could say you only have until 3pm today to enroll in a plan or your Medicare coverage will be cancelled. This is not true.
Everyone has until December 7th to make enrollment decisions about Part D and Medicare Advantage plans. Don’t fall for scammers who set their own time restraints or make you feel an unnecessary sense of urgency.
Medicare scammers are out there, and they’re going to take advantage of the Medicare annual enrollment period.
If you ever have any doubts or questions about a potential Medicare scam, call our office or your agent! We can help you determine what’s worth your attention and what should be ignored.
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